I really love Chick fil A’s chicken biscuits. I had one this morning for the first time in months, and I was struck by the magnificent flavors that were lovingly engaging my taste buds. Overwhelmed with the greatness of the moment, I texted three of my best friends to express the bounty of grace I was experiencing, noting that it stirred my heart in love of Christ. That might sound a bit overdramatic when talking about a chicken biscuit (though, if you’ve ever had one, you know the beauty of which I speak), but I genuinely felt a bit overwhelmed with joy in that moment.
I’ve noticed that happening a bit more often recently. Last night, as I sat in a coffee shop and read my theology book, I got something of the same feeling. The other day, I bought the new album from Thousand Foot Krutch, which has been one of my favorite bands since I first started buying cds. It’s been a couple of years since their last full album, and, as I listened to it, I felt almost like I was reuniting with an old friend, finding satisfaction and joy in every line, every note, every beat of each song. Not long ago, as I watched Doctor Who, I found myself enthralled by the layers of the story, the plot twists, the slightly insane logic that makes the show so entertaining to me. There too I felt this joy fill my soul. And these are just a few of the things that really captivate me. There’s neither time nor space in this post to tell of my fondness for puns and wordplay, my deep love of late night theology and accountability talks on road trips, my fascination with poetry and spoken word, my contentment at coffee shops and old bookstores. These things, each one closely connected to my character and personality, are dear to my heart and are catalysts for joy and peace in my life.
I started to think about all of this today, and I realized that the joy was fairly pure. It wasn’t a selfish desire to hoard these things all for myself, one of my first reactions actually being to share the wealth in each case. I wasn’t looking to fill a void in my life. In fact, I wasn’t always expecting the joy that I found. It just came as I enjoyed the blessings God had made available to me.
I began to wonder if maybe these examples of grace in my life were applications of Colossians 3:17. There, Paul simply writes, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” I often think of this verse in connection with 1 Corinthians 10:31, where Paul instructs the church to do all things to the glory of God, noting eating and drinking specifically. In each case, small things are in view, things we often take for granted as just part of everyday life. Yet, in each case, we are called to give thanks to God, to glorify him, all in the name of Jesus. The lesson seems to be that in all of life, from the biggest factors to the smallest details, we are to live as to the Lord.
My thoughts on this are simple and undeveloped, this post acting more as a starting point for further consideration of these things, but two main questions come to mind. First, do I worship God through each of these things? On some level, I think I do, though definitely not perfectly. I find in these experiences a simple joy that should lead me to worship the God who allows such enjoyments. He made the flavors that make up those tasty treats, he crafted the mind that imagined such stories, and he created the sounds that make up the music. Furthermore, he formed me with the characteristics and personality I have that make me love what I love. He is the source of the joy, the giver of all good gifts as James reminds us. He alone deserves the glory for my enjoyment.
The second question is simply this: how often do I allow these simple joys to become idols that steal my love from God rather than as markers pointing me toward him? In other words, how often do I focus more on the joy than I do on the Joy Giver (I seem to remember C. S. Lewis touching on this in his Screwtape Letters as he deals with joys and pleasures of man and the enemy’s ways of twisting and distorting them, though I can’t remember the specifics). As I ate the chicken biscuit and sipped the coffee this morning, I thought of how dangerously unhealthy I might be if I partook of such delights too often. I realized as well that the joy I felt from such things would fade if I had them more often than was wise. I think this is true because the catalyst is simply that: a catalyst. It’s not intended to be the ultimate thing, but it instead should work like an arrow pointing to the ultimate thing.
My reminder today is to keep things in their proper place. I can enjoy Converse tennis shoes and stormtrooper t-shirts with Bible verses on them and the Lord of the Rings and corny jokes and a multitude of other things as long as I keep them in perspective, allowing them to fuel my ultimate joy and love in the God who blesses me with such good gifts. By his grace, I can learn to do all things as to the Lord, praying that he, as Paul writes, would renew my mind.
“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” – Romans 11:36